505 Nationals 2017 - Race Report

Written by: Thomas
Category: Blog
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Pic courtesy of Sophie Thompson

 Text by Myles White

Friday was day 1 of the regatta – the support fleet put to sea with the 2 Flying Fifteens. The heavy chop in the harbour was evidence of the rather fresh wind, but as always when the wind comes to us from the South Coast, Vetch’s is deceivingly sheltered. The beach was full of rigged boats eager to hit the water, but Jimmy kept them on shore as the wind direction shifted continuously, and the velocity hovered near the top end of the acceptable range. Refeloa “Waterboy” Zelilo made an early call on prudency and returned home on the Classic FF, while we encountered a visiting Dart fending his bows off North Pier, unable to tack. After some time the wind eased enough and a course was laid, and the boats were given authority to launch. The first casualty was Wayne Smith – his stay wire parted just as he reached the race course, and he was towed back to the beach, where he was later to play an important role in co-ordinating the safe return of boats and competitors.
All safety boats were then called to “sweep” behind the start line – and a busy time was had -Cartwheeling Hobies became the order of the day as the wind started freshening again once the start sequence got under way. The 505s set off first, followed by the Darts, Hobies, and then the Open class.  Jean-Marc George and I stood by a capsized Hobie whose mast had filled up, making righting and staying upright a very difficult task. During the 40 or so minutes it took to assist, and eventually drop the sail and tow the boat back to the start area, we had drifted probably a mile downstream. It was evident that the wind strength had increased further, with numerous boats heading home without finishing. A Dart that had lost its mast plus a waterlogged 505 were tethered to Husky’s stern, awaiting a tow back to Vetch’s.  All safety boats had had their hands full assisting all over the course, and finally we could co-ordinate the return to shore with the damaged boats.
The waterlogged 505 had in the mean-time decided to sail back to shore under jib alone – an impossible feat. It was clear that the damage was terminal, but the crew were determined to make it home, even alone. While under tow the boat repeatedly capsized uncontrollably, despite the tow speed being only around 1 knot. Darkness fell and we were still over a mile from shore, and when she capsized again when a train squall arrived, we ordered the crew to abandon ship and board Oppie Duck, so we could get them to dry land. We learned that a Hobie 14 had also had to be abandoned, while The King had another wounded Hobie under tow. Not counting the number of dropped masts, 2 boats had to be abandoned, but all sailors were returned to shore safely. Whilst terms such as “mayhem” and “chaos” would be too strong, it was very challenging conditions for competitors and support crew alike, and I believe that the PYC team is to be commended on their performance that day.
The Hobie was recovered at La Lucia on Saturday afternoon, while the 505 made landfall at Umhlanga Rocks, where it unfortunately was rendered a write-off. Racing on Saturday was abandoned as the wind strength was way over the top, but the support fleet went to sea to recover the course marks which had been left in place due to the late return the previous day.
Sunday was the best day of the regatta, with 3 races being completed. The wind strength again increased, but only during the third race, after which everyone was sent home. Monday however, dawned sunny with little wind, but Windguru was suggesting more of what we had been experiencing. The fleet came out and racing got underway as the wind settled in the upper teens – champagne racing! But before the race was over we were back into the mid and upper twenties and yet again all racing was abandoned.  Capsizes were the order of the day and yet again the support boats had their hands full assisting to right the cats, and towing others home.
Even today the South Wester has still been howling – making great passage for the arriving Cape visitors participating in the Vasco race, but these same winds sadly led to the cancellation of the Inhaca race.
But as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and we can congratulate our members Peter Hall for winning the Hobie 14 Regionals, as well as Siya Vato and Lucky Phakathi for winning the Open class on a Flying Fifteen. I mentioned the Funke brothers winning the 505s, and even though the club name Aeolians appeared on the score sheet, we know that Thomas is really a PYC man at heart. Ben Mienie from the Vaal took the honours in the Dart class.

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